It has been three months since I came to Bangkok and yesterday I finally saw my first Thai film of 2009. It has been that kind of year – just a dire and deadly debris of broad comedy, teen romances, annoying children and grubby horror that you would have to pay me to go and watch. And sadly no one has made me that offer. 2022 Tsunami at least made my ears prick up when I saw the trailer – Bangkok being wiped out by a gigantic wave. Totally cool. I looked for my apartment in hopes that it survives or that at least I do up on the twenty-second floor. I didn’t see it. In the end though, it wasn’t a cinematic reason that made me go see this film but instead a humanitarian one. This was a mission of mercy.
Last week the Bangkok Post reported that the director locked himself in his room and put a gun to his head because no one was going to his film and the critics were bashing it. Why he wondered is everyone going to see American crap like Terminator Salvation and Angels and Demons and no one is supporting Thai crap. It is a valid question. Apparently matters were not helped much by the fact that he initially used images of real people who died in the 2004 Tsunami to help market the film. Fortunately for the movie world, the director was persuaded not to end his life as it was a bad week to do so with David Carradine taking up all the Thai newspaper headlines (pictures of his hanging body included) and who would even notice his demise. It would be back page news. So I did the right thing and with at least four other people in attendance we paid our 100 baht ($3). But if through some chance of fate the director should come across this review I would advise him to stop reading right now. I don’t want to be held responsible for any rash action and at this point believe me no one is going to see your movie no matter what.
It is 2022 – where will you be you might be wondering in 13 years – living the good life perhaps - not likely - if you are in the United States you are probably dead because much of the country has been destroyed by hurricanes, most of Europe in under a mountain of snow and Asia is sinking under water. All of this is due to drastic climate changes that the human race has neglected to do much about. Director Toranong Sricher has a lot of social issues that he crams into this 90-minute slog – climate change, wealth distribution, corrupt politicians, over development of their beautiful islands and the spoiled spawn of the rich. All of these are pertinent issues in Thailand – especially painful to observe is the rape and pillage of one lovely island after another by greedy developers and sunburned tourists – but I tend to doubt if most people come to see a disaster film to be lectured to and much of this film feels like a class lecture by a horn rimmed professor. There is zero fun here. And worse, there is zero suspense and drama.
A group of hard bodied men and women headed by the elderly Doctor Siam track volcano/earthquake activity in the Gulf of Thailand and are on the lookout for signs that the next big one is coming. All of them were emotionally damaged by the 2004 Tsunami and they are dedicated to saving lives the next time. A dynamic Prime Minister keeps close tabs on their work and on three occasions has ordered evacuations of civilian populations due to their predictions but in none of the cases did anything happen. He is being hindered by a sleazy politician who seems to have crawled out of the gutter last week and to make sure we realize how corrupt he is the director shows him having sex with a young male prostitute two times. But his son is even worse – he is developing an island with a casino and lots of hot women that he rolls on the beach with while the poor locals just cluck their tongues when they aren’t getting beaten up.
None of this adds up to zilch because there isn’t even one character that feels much more than a stock hero or bad guy. When the PM lowers himself from a helicopter to save a busload of children caught by the tsunami it is all you can do not to laugh at how silly this is. But when he is later saved by a giant Buddha statue in the harbor it gets even cornier. The truly bad over-acting of most of the cast doesn’t help. One precious scene has one of the hard bodied cleavage showing science babes rush out on her boat to save Mai Tai. "Mai Tai, Mai Tai where are you". Who the hell is Mai Tai I wondered. Oh, the dolphin of course. She tells the dolphin to head for the hills before the tsunami came and sure enough it completely understands her (or is terrified by her acting) and so takes off like a dolphin out of hell. Now once the wave comes it gets mildly entertaining – oops there goes the Skytrain – but it is over much too quickly and is all shot from a distance so you never actually see anyone getting killed up close and personal (not even the bad guys). Weird, I wanted to see Shelly Winters drowning in an elevator or something similar. I wanted to see the fear in people’s eyes that would be in mine (because I have no doubt that when the warning comes I will say ya ya ya and go eat a green chicken curry).
My rating for this film: 3/10
(written up 6/09)